The Palatine Chapel, Aachen

On the way back from the Netherlands, we stopped in Aachen specifically to check out the Palatine Chapel and the Aachen Cathedral.   The Palatine Chapel is an early medieval chapel which was originally part of Charlemagne’s palace.  Most of the palace no longer exists, but the Chapel has been incorporated into Aachen Cathedral.

This building is Aachen’s theater, and has nothing to do with the Cathedral.


This is part of the wall just outside the Chapel.  When we arrived, it was about fifteen minutes before the Chapel would be open for visitors so we walked around a bit.


A statue near to the cathedral called The Circle of Money.


This is the Aachen Rathaus (town hall), across from the Aachen Starbucks.


Germans really do love their ice cream.


The Chapel opened at 12:30 and we were inside soon after.  In the main entryway, there are pine cones dating from the year 1000.


This is the “She-wolf,” a Roman female bear from the 2nd century.  Recent research has dated this sculpture back to ancient Greece, claiming that it is part of a hunting scene.


The Cathedral administrators charge you €1 to take pictures with your own camera.  When you pay, they put a green band on your camera strap to indicate that you’re allowed to be taking photos.  This seems entirely reasonable to me.

This is the main octagonal part of Charlemagne’s chapel.  The main structure dates back to roughly the year 800.


The ceiling of the Chapel.


Stained glass with several items visible on the altar.  I’ll come back to these.


Detail in the ceiling near the main entrance.

aachen-8 aachen-9 aachen-10

The gold box closest to the camera is the Shrine of St. Mary.  It contains four Aachen relics, which are taken out every seven years and put on display.   Behind that is the Adlerspult (Eagle stand), a brass music stand in the shape of an eagle.  The furthest gold box back is the Shrine of Charlemagne, and it contains the remains of Charlemagne, who died in the year 814.


The Shrine of St. Mary and the Adlerpult.


The Shrine of Charlemagne.


In the gallery upstairs is Charlemagne’s throne.  (Thanks to Robert for taking this picture.  You had to join a tour to go upstairs, and he did.)   Originally, the throne was white marble, but it was covered it in tar paper after the war and buried in sand-  a bomb attack blew out all the windows and they were doing their best to cover the inside from the elements.  The tar paper has left stains on the marble and these will not be cleaned for fear of damaging the marble.


This is the Aachen cathedral in its entirety.  The rounded cupola in the center is the portion containing the Palatine Chapel.


Have you ever been to the Palatine Chapel?




Document Neupfarrplatz in Regensburg

In Neupfarrplatz, one of the largest main squares of Regensburg, there is a big church called the Neupfarrkirche.   Tucked behind that church is a triangular metal structure containing a door.  The door contains a stairwell that goes down into Document Neupfarrplatz, an exhibit made of an archaeological excavation beneath the square which occurred between 1995 and 1997 .  The exhibit isn’t open all the time.  There are tours at set times, and you have to go to the Tabak shop across the way to buy your tickets before the tour.  It’s only €5, for a one hour tour in German.


Once you get to the bottom of the stairs, you’re in a large chamber with pathways leading off in other directions.  There is a set of tunnels which comprise part of a ring shaped underground air-raid shelter built around 1940.  These first two pictures show part of that structure.


Looking down the hall from the air raid shelter hallway, you can see part of the main chamber at the foot of the stairs.


Inside that first chamber are three glass cases containing small items from three different time periods of the excavation.    The first is a bronze figurine of the Roman god Mercury, from the second or third century A.D.

This statue is believed to have stood on the house altar of a high ranking Roman official.  This location was the Roman camp Castra Regina around 179 A.D.  Castra Regina was a fortified military base, and I’ve posted photos of the old fortress walls before.  The remains of Castra Regina lie here, six meters below Neupfarrplatz.


This pointy fellow is a bronze figurine of the high priest Aharon from the 15th century A.D.  This is from the medieval Jewish quarter, which also stood in Neupfarrplatz after the Roman Empire.  Southern Germany’s biggest Jewish community prospered here from the 8th century until February 21st, 1519, when the Jews were driven out of the city.    At the time of the expulsion, around 80 Talmudic scholars lived here.


After the explulsion of the Jews in 1519, the synagogue was demolished.  A wooden chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Zur Schönen Maria) at this location soon after.   The chapel became a center for mass pilgrimages.  The next  item pictured is a silver sign of pilgrimage from around 1520.

So much money was generated by the pilgrims that the foundations of a new larger Neupfarrkirche were set in 1540.  This is where the names Neupfarrplatz and Neupfarrkirche come from-  Regensburg became Protestant in 1542 and the pilgrimage church was reconsecrated as “Neue Pfarre,” the new parish church.


Opposite the bronze and silver items encased in glass is a walkway supported over part of the excavated structure.  These were cellar rooms – the archway goes to another room which had been converted several times.

neupfarrplatz-8 neupfarrplatz-9

One of the more spectacular things found during the excavations were these 624 gold coins, buried around 1388.


Next to the gold coins is a golden ring with the star-and-moon seal of the medieval Jewish community of Regensburg.


This archway contains stairs which used to lead to the surface.


Above the stairs is a “window” embedded in the surface of Neupfarrplatz.  The window cost around €25,000 to install.


Here’s the window from above ground-  the people at this cafe probably don’t realize they’re sitting almost directly above hundreds of years of history.


Opposite the Neupfarrkirche is a white marble structure which shows the layout and position of the original medieval Jewish synagogue prior to it being destroyed in 1519.    This artistic representation of the old synagogue was created in 2005 by the Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan.  It was designed to be a “Place of Encounter, ” a symbol of Christians and Jews living together.  Hebrew lettering engraved in the space where the Torah was kept spell out the word “Misrach” to point to the east, toward Jerusalem.

The white marble is directly in front of an ice cream cafe, so it’s a popular place for people to sit and snack with friends on a sunny day.


So a Roman, a Rabbi, and a Protestant walk into a bar…   I’m just kidding.

Have you ever been to an archaeological excavation?

Under The Dom

I’ve put up external pictures of the Dom before.  Here’s one to remind you before I continue with the post.

The Dom, sometimes known as the Regensburger Dom or the Cathedral of St. Peter, is well known as an example of pure German gothic architecture.  It was completed in 1634 except for the towers, which were finished in 1869.   The Dom is so integral to the identity of Regensburg that pretty much all of the touristy stuff (postcards and so forth) show the cathedral spires along with the Stone Bridge.  This town loves the Dom so much that they even made a chocolate version:

In addition, the Dom is the home of the Regensburger Domspatzen, literally “Cathedral Sparrows.”  The Domspatzen is the oldest boy’s choir in the world, founded in 976.  It’s also a boarding school for young boys.  The Domspatzen is quite famous, and has performed for Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II.  (Both of those events were in the 1980s though, so it’s obviously not the same kids.)   Here’s a sample performance-

I digress wildly.   The original point I intended for this post is that I finally had a chance a few weekends back to go inside the Dom and look around.  The interior contains a lot of interesting sculpture, an small catacomb, and a pretty huge pipe organ.  It was also considerably colder than the temperature outside-  I’ve been told that it’s always that cold inside the church.   Here are some pictures from that day: